TED Conversations

David Hamilton


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Could we orbit a telescopic satellite 1 light hour above the earth, and use it to zoom in on crimes, after the fact?

Just an odd thought... I assume it would be too far to get a clear image... but we are getting much better at that sort of thing...

Could we see if someone was really defending themselves in an infrared shot? A getaway vehicle? Or, is that too far to have any predictable orbit or make out something so small?


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    Jan 30 2013: You're idea requires information to travel faster than the speed of light.

    Let's say a crime taking place somewhere on earth. We send a signal to the telescope to zoom in on that area. The signal we send to the telescope will take an hour to arrive as it can't travel faster than the speed of light. Therefore you can't record or watch an incident from before you sent the signal.
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      Jan 30 2013: For some reason I thought you could use infrared to communicate with the satellite, slightly faster than visible light... but now i'm pretty sure that's not true... Luckily it's not necessary. The flaw in my concept is the "light hour"... We don't need to have time to reposition the camera... We need a camera that is always taking a multi trillion point of light image of Los Angeles (or other crime ridden city)... all the time.. Then we can zoom into a part of that image with programming... After the fact. Good call though, that was a glaring, and obvious miscalculation on my part. Should have spent a bit more time thinking this out before i posted.
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        Jan 30 2013: When we say speed of light it means the speed of electromagnetic waves, which includes infrared. Nevertheless no signal can travel faster than this speed.

        Basically what you are suggesting is surveillance everywhere. Many before you have suggested this idea and you do not need to travel into space to do so. But as much as it would lower crime rate I do not think it is a desirable idea to pursue.
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          Jan 31 2013: Like most things, it would be perfectly fine if people were... yeah, I don't know why for some reason I thought higher wavelength light moved faster last night... just pure brain fart.

          Actually though... what I'm saying is a bit less intrusive. It would be absolutely impossible to view a photo of Los Angeles 24/7... and incredibly inefficient... The warrant system, however, would not be. If you have suffiecient evidence of a serious crime in a given time and area, you could ask for permission to view that area, specifically for that crime. Anything else you see would be inadmissable.

          Obviously, you could do it the super creepy way too, and many governments would prefer that... but this would be much simpler. Ultimately though, yes, I'm just suggesting surveillance of major cities... after the fact. Keep it illegal to look in on people, make it legal to see what happened on the street when shots were fired.

          And of course in my science fiction novel "Thank god we learned to communicate with high speed lasers, so we can view the past" : p

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